Absentia

Cade awoke beneath the clear dome of the transport. It was nighttime, but the blizzard held its own soft luminescence, vaguely purple. It felt like the storm was on the wrong side of a snow globe.

He shifted in his seat, his leg sore from the prolonged nap in a strange position.

“We’re almost there,” said Ari. With his short gray hair and billowy white clothes he blended into the snow like he was a force of nature himself. In some ways, he was.

“Are you sure you can trust these people? This pilot?” Cade asked. “It’s not too late to change your mind. We could catch a shuttle out of Buckminster and head to Eroux to wait things out.”

Ari steepled his fingers and placed them before his lips. “Eroux has informants; we know this.”

“Imerie then. Or Qitsit.”

“Cade. Be calm.” Ari inhaled deeply and held his breath for a long moment, and Cade found himself falling into rhythm. “This is the way.”

“I’m calm. But Ari, we have people here. We don’t know this smuggler. Who will protect you when you’re alone among the stars?”

“The stars will provide.” Ari’s voice was like a lullaby, but Cade would not be soothed.

“If you leave, they’ll try you in absentia. You’ll never be able to return.”

The transport glided to a stop in front of a suspect-looking shuttle in the middle of an icy waste.

“Oh, Cade. You sill don’t understand. I do not intend to return.”

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